If you’re worried about the content your child may view during your co-parent’s custody time, one way to start is by looking at whether you are clear and consistent with the movie rules you set and apply in your own house.
Sometimes it feels easy to say, “Well, the kids are going to watch that movie at a friend’s house anyway,” especially as they get older. But if you’re inconsistent about your own standards, it’s hard to point out the other parent’s inconsistency in their house.
And if you don’t know what your own rules are, how will you reach an agreement and cooperation with the other parent?
Avoiding disputes over screentime
Here are some suggestions for thinking through this type of conflict. You can create workable movie rules and keep a positive attitude about your policy.
Writing movie rules in a parenting plan
When you write a parenting plan or design one in a co-parenting app, you can include provisions about movies and TV.
Some parents make rules, like:
- Only allowing movies on lists from trusted people like teachers, librarians, or family members
- Letting the child watch unknown movies only when a parent is in the room
- Avoiding streaming video platforms or using only certain platforms
- Applying a specific TV and internet filter or “parental control.”
- Requiring films to have certain ratings (e.g., “G” or “PG” but not “PG-13” or “R”)
Other parents don’t make movie rules like this and just want to have a general sense of what their child is watching. They might instead write in the parenting plan that they’ll keep each other informed of the child’s viewing habits or that they’ll reconsider setting movie rules on a certain date.
Letting go of worries about how “cool” or “strict” you seem
Sometimes, parents’ disputes over movies, and the rules they set to deal with that conflict, are really about how they view themselves and each other. For example, one parent may give the kids more screen time or be lax about “forbidden” movies because they want to seem like the “cool” parent. The other parent tightens the rules because they want to seem like the “responsible” parent.
These perceptions can fuel their arguments with each other. They aren’t necessarily related to the child’s well-being. It may help to question these attitudes and let go of them.
Acknowledging different values
Many parents really do have different values related to their child’s wellbeing. In this situation, each cares about how movies can impact a young person, but they disagree about which movies have an impact and what kind of impact it is.
One parent wants the kid to grow up with what they think of as “film classics”—their favorite horror, sci-fi, crime, and Westerns. The other feels it’s important that the kid doesn’t watch violence, scary monsters, sexy scenes, or many advertisements. Additionally, parents may disagree over political beliefs.
In a conflict like this, it may help if each of you can promise to respect certain boundaries that the other sets and then see if you can compromise on the rest. Your ability to work with the other parent—about movie rules and everything else, too—helps minimize the negative impact of divorce on your child.
Enjoying a movie night with your child
Organizing a movie night during your parenting time can be a great emotional outlet for your child and a learning opportunity. You can choose movies that show families like yours to help your child deal with divorce. Or you can pick something just for fun to enjoy spending time together.
The other parent may do the same thing at their house. That can be a great way for them to bond with the child too, and you can try to be supportive of their movie night.
Where you have disputes over movies, see if there’s an opportunity to do something different to make a positive difference for your child.